Sunday, January 16, 2011
Haiti a Year On
A year after the earthquake, Haitians are still in desperate straits: almost no rebuilding, a dreadful cholera epidemic that was not prepared for or anticipated in advance, a non-functional central government, a million residents still under tents and tarps, and more than 10,000 NGOs delivering "aid" -- but every one of them protecting their turf and their funding first and foremost.
What's happened in Haiti since the earthquake is a tragedy for the Haitians, and a shame for the world community that pledged so much assistance to rebuild.
What's happened is a descent into Modern Medievalism.
There is no central government in Haiti except in the abstract, much as was the case in Europe during the Dark Ages; one doesn't even know who the president might be, and it hardly matters given the fact that the "government" -- such as it is -- is essentially non-functional having suffered so many losses during the earthquake.
Consequently, a proliferation of NGOs are filling a vacuum of authority and power, but only partially, and only to the extent they are protecting their turf and their funding. They are doing as little as possible for and with the Haitian people, while they primarily look after their own interests and affairs in competition with all the other NGOs.
There is no coordination of effort, no common interest, no more than minimal "service" to the Haitian People. It is private interest every step of the way, and that is a huge reason why there is no progress at all. "Oh, but it could be so much worse without us!" cry the NGOs. Maybe, maybe not. But the Haitians are rightly fed up with the state of affairs they are subject to, and given some of the violent incidents in response to the cholera epidemic especially, they are on the verge of general insurrection.
This is pretty much what everyone's future will look like when government is reduced to an abstraction and competing private interests are left to their own devices. Each NGO becomes a kind of independent fief, struggling with all the others, using the People as pawns, providing them little or nothing, but always claiming that their efforts have kept things from getting worse.
Haiti should be a disturbing lesson for all of us, but strangely, the most obvious lessons are lost on most Americans.
lea-p adds links to a Film@11tv documentary "Where did the money go?" to help round out the picture. Four of five episodes are on line now, the fifth and final episode should be posted soon.
Episode One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpa8f3Q8eds
Episode Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf-rC3VZxTo
Episode Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldZUqlgoyYQ
Episode Four: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqUDvoGOkTs